Monday, August 29

Here's How You Can Get $80 in Shell Gas for $45.24 (Expires Soon!)

Right now at Groupon, you can pre-pay for $80 worth of gas for $52:  that's a 35% discount on the price of gas.  To sweeten the deal, Ebates is offering 9% back on deals at Groupon today, saving you another $4.68.   Since Winn-Dixie (and some other supermarkets) gives a 4% rebate towards Shell gas when you purchase a gift card, I bought Groupon gift cards there first.  This saved me another $2.08.  I also receive 5 Hilton Honors points for every $1 I spend on my American Express, so each deal (I bought 8 deals) earned me 260 Hilton Honors points.

Bottom Line:  for $80 in gas, I paid $45.24 and received 260 HHonors Points
Note:  The gas is rewarded as $1 off per gallon up to 20 gallons.  I use gas cans when I fill up to guarantee I get the full benefit of this offer.

Monday, August 22

Back from Europe

Pompeii
We've been on a 12 day Mediterranean Cruise.  It's the cruise I paid $125/person for, but it ended up costing much more than that.  I decided we should make the most of the opportunity, since I don't know when I'll ever go back.  We purchased several excursions through a third-party, not Carnival.  This included trips to Pisa, Florence, the Vatican, Pompeii, the Colosseum, Sorrento, the Amalfi Coast, and Nora.  We also paid for local transportation, museum entry fees, alcohol, a few meals in-port, and a couple small gifts to bring back home.  Plus I gambled, too much on one day  in particular but in moderation the rest of the cruise.

I mistakenly called this a frugal cruise.  True, the price I paid for the cruise was quite cheap.  But the lesson I learned is that Europe is not a cheap place.  Was it worth it?  Absolutely.  One of the biggest surprises was the Value Added Tax (VAT) within the European Union.  It's like the sales tax we have in the U.S., except it's already included in the price of things.  The VAT was over 20% (as high as 26%) in each of the places we visited.  A small bottle of Coke, for example, cost as much as 3 Euros.

One of our favorite places was the island of Corfu, Greece.  For some reason, prices there were very reasonable.  We toured the island, visited some historical buildings, and shopped local markets.  I bought Olive Oil soap bars for 80 cents and a bottle of Kumquat liquor for 7 Euros.  We were also impressed with Dubrovnik, Croatia.  It, too, was reasonably priced.  I took an Uber there from the port to Old Town for the equivalent of $6.  It would have been double that in the U.S.

Our bodies are still adjusting to the 6 hour time difference.  It's a little after 2 AM and I am wide awake.  I went to bed around 7 PM though.

Tuesday, August 2

My Frugal Miser - July Expenses: $3,263


In July our expenses were a little high.  I completed several services on my car, including fluid exchanges, new air filters, and new headlight bulbs.  I did a lot of driving to generate income, so the depreciation expense ($1,001) is especially high.  I had to get a new dental crown ($473).  I ran the air conditioning every day (electric bill was $95).  The food bill was high, which surprises me because we didn't spend on anything extravagant.  The most expensive restaurant bill in July was just $13.


July Expenses:  $3,263

$1,508 Auto ($11 gas, $398 repairs/maintenance, $1,001 depreciation, $99 moped insurance)
$49 Bank Fees
$11 Clothing
$0 Computer
$38 Entertainment (movies, gambling, alcohol)
$408 Food
$22 Gifts Given
$118 Household/Housing/Home Repair
$52 Health and Dental Insurance
$0 Investment Expense
$206 Interest Expense*
$473 Medical/Dental
$0 Miscellaneous
$13 Personal Care
$0 Subscriptions
$0 Taxes
$83 Uber/Lyft Expenses (excluding fuel and depreciation)
$281 Utilities
$0 Vacation

*Interest expense includes student loans and the loan on my car.  As both rates are below 2%, I am completely comfortable paying the interest each month and investing the money that I would otherwise use to pay off these loans.  In July I paid $164 to E*Trade for "hard to borrow" interest on a short sale of Sears Holdings stock. 

Monday, August 1

My Frugal Miser - July Income: $35,506


July was perhaps my best income month ever.

Most of the income was from stock I sold.  Within the last year I purchased 8,000 shares of Vereit using the proceeds from the house I sold last year.  This REIT, a normally boring and conservative investment, increased by more than 40% in under a year.  There's no reason to be greedy:  I sold all my shares in my taxable brokerage account but still have a significant position in my retirement accounts.

Since conference work is nearly non-existent in the summer, I focused on mystery shopping, Amazon Flex and rideshare driving.  These "active" income sources brought in more than $4,000, but some of that was from jobs I completed in June but was paid for in July.

The vacant property I hold in my IRA was occupied at the end of July.  The townhouse is still empty.  Sometime this month I expect to have another vacancy in Birmingham.  Finally, I only received partial rent once again from one of my tenants.

July Income $35,506

$2,955 Mystery Shopping and Hospitality Jobs
$645 Uber
$663 Lyft
$306 Amazon Deliveries
$5,075 Rental Income
$1,237 Dividends and Interest (Investment Accounts)
$24,569 Realized Gains (Losses) on Investments
$56 Other Sources

Notes:  
  • I don't include transactions in my retirement accounts.  This includes rental income, dividends and capital gains and losses.
  • I include merchandising and hospitality work in the mystery shopping category since the companies that I shop for provide this extra side work.